Amobee Media Systems has selected Winstar, known primarily as a niche online advertising and production firm, to rep their mobile advertising inventory (release). You may recall that that Vodaphone and Telefonica both made strategic minority investments in Amobee a few weeks ago, announcing that Amobee would be rolling out ad services for the carriers’ inventory in Greece, Czech Republic and Spain markets.
Amobee’s play has always been to go after carrier deals, as that’s where the bulk of the mobile ad inventory is at present, and it also allows the company to offer integrated ad packages across most mobile touch points (MMS, SMS, WEB) – a level of integration that’s rare in today’s marketplace. The challenge Winstar (and therefore Amobee) will face is that (so far) the most difficult part in the mobile advertising value chain has not been procuring the inventory… it’s been selling it. Both EnPocket (now Nokia) and Third Screen Media (now AOL) enjoyed early successes in securing large swaths of carrier inventory, only to run into problems on the sell-side. Tales of <20% sell thru on any given month were not uncommon.
Of course neither of these two scenarios involved the type of “integrated mobile ad packages” that Amobee brings to the table with their “carrier-grade technology.” That being said, my hunch is that Winstar has bitten off far more than it can chew, and that Amobee took an unnecessary risk in going with a small player… a larger online ad network could obviously do a better job repping the mobile inventory, but would give Amobee a smaller cut of the revenue.
Amobee seems to be following the same business model as their carrier partners: tie up smaller players and take a bigger piece of the pie… forgoing (short and mid term) gross revenues for larger (long term) revenue shares.
Of course if Winstar really under performs I’m sure Amobee will be free to find additional partners to help sell the inventory.